Discoloration around the mouth: Causes and how to treat It?

Hyperpigmentation (Discoloration) around the mouth
Medically reviewed by Dr. Mandy Liedeman

Key takeaways 

  1. Hyperpigmentation is a skin condition that can be caused due to a number of reasons, including prediabetes, acne, melasma, pregnancy, and vitamin deficiencies.
  2. It can be controlled naturally by lots of fluid intake, serums, and vitamin supplements. Healthcare providers can prescribe medications like hydroquinone, azelaic acid, and tretinoin for the treatment of hyperpigmentation.


Hyperpigmentation, characterized by patches of darker skin, often affects the area around the mouth due to excess melanin production. While not inherently harmful, this condition can cause self-consciousness and discomfort for those affected. Factors such as hormonal changes, skin injury, and environmental influences contribute to this discoloration. 

What causes discoloration around the mouth?

Melanin is a primitive black or dark brown pigment that exists at some level in most living things. Its ability to absorb various radiation types gives melanin a protective quality, but sometimes, your body can produce too much. Here are some of the causes of hyperpigmentation around the mouth and their treatment options: 

  1. Sun exposure

Sun exposure is a primary cause of hyperpigmentation, particularly around the mouth, as this area is often exposed to sunlight. Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can increase melanin production, developing dark spots. Preventive measures such as using sunscreen with a high SPF, wearing protective clothing, and avoiding peak sun hours can help minimize sun-induced hyperpigmentation.


  • Topical treatments containing ingredients like hydroquinone, retinoids, or vitamin C can help fade dark spots caused by sun exposure.
  • Chemical peels and laser therapy are effective in targeting and reducing hyperpigmentation.
  • Regular use of sunscreen is essential to prevent further darkening of the skin.
Is your skin tone getting darker and hyperpigmented? Get a medical professional’s help now.

  1. Melasma

Hormonal fluctuations, such as those occurring during pregnancy or menopause, can stimulate melanin production, leading to melasma or the “mask of pregnancy.” These hormonal changes can result in dark patches around the mouth and other facial areas.


  • Topical treatments containing hydroquinone, azelaic acid, or kojic acid can help lighten melasma.
  • Laser therapy and chemical peels may be recommended for more stubborn cases of melasma.
  • Hormonal therapies under the guidance of a healthcare professional may help regulate hormone levels and reduce hyperpigmentation.

  1. Vitamin deficiency

Vitamin deficiency and metabolic disorders significantly contribute to hyperpigmentation, affecting the balance of melanin production in the skin. Diseases like Addison’s disease, which impacts the adrenal glands, can disrupt cortisol production and lead to hyperpigmentation. Deficiencies in essential vitamins such as Vitamin B, folic acid, and iron can also contribute to skin pigment changes.


  • Addressing underlying metabolic disorders and deficiencies is essential for managing hyperpigmentation. This may involve medication, dietary supplements, or lifestyle changes to correct imbalances and support overall skin health.
  • Topical treatments containing vitamins and antioxidants can help improve skin tone and reduce hyperpigmentation caused by vitamin deficiencies.
  • Sun protection is crucial in preventing further darkening of the skin, especially in cases where vitamin D deficiency is exacerbated by sun avoidance. Regular exposure to sunlight in moderation and appropriate sunscreen use can help maintain optimal vitamin D levels while protecting against UV-induced hyperpigmentation.

  1. Side effects of the medication

Certain medications and chemicals can disrupt melanin production, leading to hyperpigmentation. Examples include antibiotics, anticonvulsants, chemotherapy drugs, and psychoactive medications.


  • Discontinuing the use of medications that contribute to hyperpigmentation may be necessary under medical supervision.
  • Topical treatments like prescription-strength retinoids, chemical peels, or laser therapy may be recommended to reduce the appearance of dark spots.

  1. Acne

Acne is a common skin condition that can leave behind more than blemishes; it can also result in post-acne hyperpigmentation (PAH). PAH is a frequent and significant complication of acne, characterized by dark spots or patches that persist after the acne lesions have healed. Several risk factors contribute to the development of PAH, including inflammation, dark skin color (particularly in females with severe facial acne), sunlight exposure, and trauma to the skin caused by acne lesions. 


  • Proper management of acne is crucial for preventing post-acne hyperpigmentation. This may involve topical or oral medications to reduce inflammation and control acne breakouts.
  • Topical treatments containing retinoids, hydroquinone, or alpha hydroxy acids can help fade post-acne hyperpigmentation and promote skin renewal.
  • In-office procedures such as chemical peels, microdermabrasion, or laser therapy may be recommended for more severe cases of post-acne hyperpigmentation, helping to lighten dark spots and improve overall skin texture.
Get your hydroquinone prescription now from our healthcare providers, available 24/7.

  1. Trauma to the skin

Injuries, burns, acne breakouts, and inflammatory skin conditions can lead to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, resulting in dark patches around the mouth. Lip lickers and contact dermatitis from lip balms or toothpaste can also contribute to discoloration.


  • Gentle skincare practices and avoiding further irritation to the skin can help prevent post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
  • Topical treatments containing ingredients like retinoids or corticosteroids may be prescribed to lighten dark spots.
  • In-office procedures such as chemical peels or microdermabrasion can help exfoliate the skin and reduce hyperpigmentation.

Who’s at higher risk for mouth discoloration?

The variability of skin pigmentation across different ethnicities is widely recognized, with certain groups, particularly individuals of Asian and Indian descent, being more prone to pigmentation disorders.

How long does it take to get rid of hyperpigmentation?

The duration for hyperpigmentation to fade varies depending on the underlying cause and the depth of the pigmentation. Generally, dark spots or patches may take 6 to 12 months to fade if the cause is identified and addressed. However, if the pigmentation is deep within the skin, the fading process may extend over several years.

How to prevent discoloration around the mouth?

Protecting your skin from potential triggers is key to preventing hyperpigmentation, particularly around the mouth. While it may not be possible to avoid every cause of discoloration, taking proactive steps to shield your skin can help minimize the risk of dark spots.

Dermatologists recommend the following measures to prevent hyperpigmentation:

  • Apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher every two hours outdoors.
  • Reapply sunscreen after sweating or swimming to maintain optimal protection.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat outdoors to shield your face from the sun’s harmful rays.
  • Avoid prolonged sun exposure during peak hours, typically between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun’s intensity is at its highest.
  • Opt for gentle skincare products that do not cause irritation or discomfort when applied.
  • When selecting a sunscreen, choose a broad-spectrum formula with water-resistant properties and ingredients like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide for effective protection against hyperpigmentation.
  • Consult with a healthcare professional about switching medications if recommended.
  • Using sunscreen daily, particularly formulations containing iron oxide, to prevent hyperpigmentation or melasma triggered by visible light exposure.
  • Avoid tanning beds and minimize exposure to peak sun hours to reduce the risk of hyperpigmentation.
  • Wearing a wide-brimmed hat to provide additional protection for the face and mouth area.
  • Addressing any diagnosed nutritional deficiencies through appropriate dietary modifications or supplementation.
  • By implementing these preventive strategies and maintaining a consistent skincare routine, you can help safeguard your skin against the development of discoloration around the mouth.
Get professional help now for your hyperpigmentation and start your treatment today.

When should I see a doctor?

If you notice persistent hyperpigmentation that doesn’t improve with over-the-counter treatments, it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional. Prescription-strength formulations may be required for effective resolution, especially if the condition is related to underlying medical issues or medication side effects. Additionally, seek medical attention if you experience symptoms suggestive of systemic conditions like Addison’s disease or vitamin deficiencies. Any concerning changes in moles or freckles require evaluation for potential skin cancer. 

FAQs about discoloration around the mouth

Is the darkness around my mouth permanent? 

No, the dark patches around the mouth can result from various factors, including melasma during pregnancy, sun exposure, and medication side effects. The good news is that this condition is treatable, and the dark patches can be eliminated permanently with the appropriate treatment.

How do I get rid of dark corners around my mouth fast?

Consider using prescription-strength retinoids or hydroquinone to quickly address dark corners around the mouth. Azelaic acid can also effectively reduce discoloration and inflammation, while kojic acid is beneficial for treating conditions like melasma and age spots. Laser therapy is another option for targeting dark spots and achieving faster results.

Your Doctors Online uses high-quality and trustworthy sources to ensure content accuracy and reliability. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and medical associations to provide up-to-date and evidence-based information to the users.

  1. Weatherald, Jason, and Thomas J. Marrie. “Pseudocyanosis: drug-induced skin hyperpigmentation can mimic cyanosis.” The American journal of medicine 121.5 (2008): 385-386.
  2. Caprez, Jennifer, et al. “Hyperpigmentation with Capecitabine: Part of Hand-Foot Syndrome or a Separate Entity?.” Cureus 10.3 (2018).
  3. Hu, Xing-Lin, and Cheng Tan. “Miscellaneous Hyperpigmentation or Hypermelanosis.” Atlas of Pigmentary Skin Disorders. Singapore: Springer Nature Singapore, 2023. 391-408.
  4. Nicolaidou, Electra, Christina Antoniou, and Andreas D. Katsambas. “Origin, clinical presentation, and diagnosis of facial hypermelanoses.” Dermatologic clinics 25.3 (2007): 321-326.
  5. Veerula, Vindhya. “Facial Blemishes: Causes, Types, and Treatment.”
  6. Vashi, Neelam A., and Roopal Vashi Kundu. “Facial hyperpigmentation: causes and treatment.” British Journal of Dermatology 169.s3 (2013): 41-56.

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